The world may no longer be cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, but it is definitely insane for SUVs. Automakers don’t seem to be able to build them fast enough to satisfy global demand. Now Kia is finding that demand for its new Niro crossover SUV is higher than expected.
Kia is pleased with the early sales success of its Niro crossover SUV, which is essentially a Hyundai Ioniq dressed in different clothes. Both are hybrids like the Toyota Prius and both will offer plug-in hybrid and fully electric versions soon. Shortly after its worldwide introduction, the hunkier, chunkier Niro looks like it will give the Ioniq, a run for its money in the marketplace.
“There is much more freedom. You can make an SUV more sporty and not ultilitarian,” chief creative officer Peter Schreyer told the press in Korea last week. “I don’t know what comes after the SUV. I think it’s just what people worldwide want to sit high and have an overview, to feel protected.” The SUV has certainly asserted itself lately. Sales of sedans are soft while high-riding SUV sales are surging in every market.
Thomas Oh, Kia’s chief operating officer, told journalists that demand is already running ahead of expectations in Korea and he anticipates the car will be a major hit elsewhere. He predicts 40,000 sales in the US next year and 20,000 in Europe once the car goes on sale over here.
“It does not look like a Prius because Prius customers are very loyal,” he said, “but many customers want small SUVs, including those looking for eco-friendly cars.”
On the theory that the best sales strategy is to give the people what they want, Kia expects to add plug-in hybrid and full battery electric versions of the Niro to the lineup in the near future. “This year globally, eco-friendly cars are around 2 million vehicles, with electric vehicles just 100,000,” Oh explained. “By 2020, we expect eco-friendly to rise to around 600,000 with 42% hybrid, 32% plug-in hybrid and 27% electric. That is a significant increase and it makes sense to combine the technology with vehicle types that customers want to buy.”
The transition to cars that use less gasoline and fewer carbon emissions is accelerating, apparently, despite historically low gas prices. Attitudes among car buyers are beginning to change and they are demanding more eco-friendly options. That’s a positive sign for the future.